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Friday, January 28, 2011

On "O: A Presidential Novel"

Rampant speculation as to the true author of the anonymously-published “O: A Presidential Novel” has settled on one candidate, and if true, I have to cry foul. The lead suspect is none other than Mark Salter, who was a key adviser to the McCain campaign and has co-written five non-fiction books with the Senator.

The reason this is so odious is that the novel is clearly a literary hit piece on President Obama. Michiko Kakutani’s review in the New York Times mentioned that the fictional O is portrayed as arrogant, superior and vain. Though some, writing before knowing the true author, praised the author’s intimate knowledge of campaign lifestyle, Kakutani described the prose and the story as “lackadaisical” which is certainly a word you wouldn’t want turning up in reviews of your work.

The topper is that the novel’s editor and publisher tried to play up the salacious aspects of such a work, promising that the author was someone who “has been in the room with the President.” I’m sure this is technically true, perhaps they were in the same debate hall, but the implication was clearly that the novel was by someone who knew Obama intimately. To find, then, that the author is a political rival with obvious, transparent motives for discrediting him renders such a promotional gambit disgusting in retrospect.

If you want to trash the sitting President of the United States, there are literally limitless opportunities to do so. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but no one is sitting in jail right now for saying the President is doing a bad job. But to do so in a piece of fiction, and then give your imagined ramblings some false credence by hiding behind the “Anonymous” ruse, is purely unconscionable. Sign your damn name to the book so everyone knows what they are getting. The bitter railings of an unemployed hack.

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